Blisters will undoubtedly appear from time to time but there is a great deal that can be done to minimize the risk. Treating blisters, if they do arise, is also a fairly simple process.
You can just picture it can't you - you've had a super day out hiking and you're on your way back down the trail with just three or four more miles to go when you suddenly notice you've got blisters. Suddenly that three or four miles home starts to take for ever and each footstep is nothing but sheer pain!
Blisters result from friction between your skin and your sock, held against your foot by the wall of your hiking boot. Even the finest boots and socks in the world will still allow some slippage of your foot and that inevitably leaves you open to the possibility of painful friction.
The starting point to preventing or minimizing blisters lies in investing in a good pair of socks. This traditionally meant wool, cotton or silk socks but, today, hikers can buy some first class socks in a variety of modern materials including Lycra and various forms of polyester. Perhaps the best socks though are those that combine both modern and traditional materials.
Construction is also an important factor when it comes to buying hiking socks and you should look for socks without the traditional ridges of many socks and with re-enforced sections around areas such as the toes and heels.
Your selection of hiking boots is also important and while they should be stiff ( and indeed stay that way throughout their life), they should also be comfortable right from day one. If they do feel uncomfortable when you try them on beware of the salesman who says that's normal and that they'll soften with wear. This is certainly true of most boots, but you should still look for a pair of hiking boots that feel right from the start.
Another common cause of blisters is starting out with wet feet. This normally happen when you stop along the trail for a rest and take your boots off to cool your feet in an inviting creek. If you do take a break make sure that you dry your feet thoroughly before putting your socks back on (and indeed change socks if they too are wet, or even damp) and check that your boots are clear of grit and dirt before lacing them up.
Despite all of these precautions the possibility of blisters is still there, so what do you do when you do get a blister?
If you think that you can feel a blister starting stop immediately, take off your boot and inspect your foot. If you do have a blister, use some water to clean the area and, if you have brought some with you, disinfect the area with alcohol or anti-bacterial cream.
Next, puncture the blister horizontally near the base with a disinfected needle and carefully and gently squeeze out the fluid (which is mostly salt water), but don't remove the skin over the blister. Finally, cover the area with a band-aid, or moleskin, which is a kind of artificial 'skin' used just like a band-aid.
Once you're back home you can again treat the area using an anti-bacterial cream such as Benzoin. If a large proportion of the skin covering the area has become loose then you may want to cut it away carefully but, otherwise, simply leave well alone and let nature do it's job. It's also a good idea to let the air get to your feet as much as possible to help the heeling process, as long as you can keep them free from dirt and continue to apply an anti-bacterial cream.
Although blisters are not entirely preventable, the right selection of socks and boots and a little common sense will help to keep you hiking long distances. Don't let a little heat and water ruin your day.